SPL v Hearts
DUNFERMLINE 0 HEARTS 0 Date: 28/02/04
Fixture: BOS SPL Premier League
Attendance: 8421, Kick Off: 15:00
Referee: Kenny Clark, Weather: Sunny 6C
Jimmy Calderwood’s pre match comments suggested that the game was not a third place decider but the result clearly disappointed both him and the fans. From the start the Pars went for the result they so badly wanted but there no luck going their way. The team tried their best but the nine point gap still remains between the clubs.
There were four changes from the side that knocked Clyde out of the Tennents Scottish Cup in midweek. Bullen, Dempsey, Mehmet and Labonte all found themselves back on the bench as Noel Hunt and Derek Young returned upfront to play in alongside Nicholson. Darren Young returned to midfield where the cup tied Greg Shields was brought in wide right.
Hearts were yet again without Mark De Vries for their visit to East End Park as they kicked off into the sun attacking the goal at the McCathie Stand end. The match was less than 90 seconds old when Richie Byrne’s pass from the left edge of the Hearts penalty box was sent over the crossbar by Hunt although an offside flag would have disallowed a goal anyway. At the other end Wyness and McKenna created the first opening for Hearts but Kirk’s shot from 30 yards went well wide of Derek Stillie’s right hand post.
Then it was back to incessant Pars pressure. Byrne again was the provider for Hunt who chested down the ball with his back to goal and fired on the turn to send the ball over the bar from 18 yards. Hunt was unlucky minutes later when Darren Young and Shields worked the ball over from the right. He failed to rise high enough to flick home and the ball was sent out for a corner on the left.
The Hearts defence dealt with that and several free kicks awarded midway inside their own half. Hunt was making it difficult for them and there were chances that Dunfermline should have taken. In the 17th minute a Shields ball in from the right flashed through the box with neither Nicholson or Derek Young getting their head on it to make the breakthrough. Greg was definitely enjoying the space on the right flank and raced down on to another ball that he sent over for Derek Young on the left side of the box 16 yards from goal. The Pars man took the ball down and fired in an effort that Craig Gordon held diving to his right.
Playing with three men up in front of a four man midfield the Pars seemed comfortably in control and Hearts strikers Kirk and Wyness were not seeing much of the ball. Scott Thomson kept up the heat with a 25 yard shot and next Hunt charged down a Gordon clearance. Hunt was buzzing around and giving the visitors defence a torrid time. His tenacity won him the ball to set up Darren Young whose well struck shot got blocked.
At the midway stage of the first half Robert Sloan fired a 35 yard free kick well wide to the right of Stillie’s goal. Hearts continued to give away free kicks with Hunt taking particular punishment. In the 25th minute Steven Pressley forced away a 35 yard free kick from Darren Young and a Byrne throw in to Derek Young allowed the Pars man to round Maybury and make Pressley concede another corner.
Darren Young’s corner was headed behind by McKenna for another this time on the right. Barry Nicholson swung over a good ball that found Byrne but the big Irishman’s headed sailed over the crossbar. Robbie Neilson tried to get the visitors up the field but Stillie was out fast to grab his ball in from the left. Back at the sunny end, Darren Young tested Gordon from 25 yards.
There was just a hint that Hearts were beginning to creep back into the match. McKenna’s shot from the angle of the penalty box was deflected for a corner on the left and from that Byrne had to head away the danger. The ball only went as far as Alan Maybury and eventually Stillie came to catch a Neilson cross.
With less than ten minutes to half time Pressley hauled down Hunt again and Scott Thomson’s free kick floated in the direction of Byrne and Tod at the far post but it was a case of one head being better than two and so Gordon was not called into action. Dunfermline continued to search for the opener with Andrius Skerla showing some slick skills to chip the ball over a Hearts player and feed the ball through Thomson to Byrne on the far left. His cross picked out Nicholson 8 yards out from goal but his header went over the crossbar. The half ended with abuse being hurled at referee Clark as a Maybury pass back to his keeper was surprisingly picked up but the ref failed to pick up the incident.
The first ten minutes of the second half was all Hearts. Derek Stillie shielded his eyes from the sun and despite Hearts taking the play towards him he still had other action to take. In stopping Andy Kirk Skerla was quick to make up for a wayward Tod pass to McKenna. Wyness won a corner and Sloan swung it over from the left. McKenna rose and headed a good ball to Kirk but the ball broke of his thigh and went wide left.
It was the 55th minute before the home support got something to shout about. Neilson got away with a tug on Nicholson but the Pars number 7 upped the tempo with Thomson and tried to find a way through the Hearts defence. Phil Stamp presented the Pars with another free kick. McKenna headed away Thomson’s ball into the box and then Skerla pumped a ball to Nicholsonm that he volleyed just the wrong side of the left post.
The best chance of the game came in the 57th minute. A good run from Derek Young put him in a position to release the ball into the incoming Greg Shields. The Pars player had not scored in his 90 previous appearances for the club and he was denied this time as Gordon touched the ball on to the right post. The thundering shot rebounded through Shields legs and Hearts breathed again.
At the other end Stillie was too keen to get his hands on the ball. He went for a long throw from Neilson but missed and had to rely on his defence to clear the lines. The keeper redeemed himself in the 68th minute diving bravely at the feet of Kirk as he tried to wriggle his way in from the left. A minute later Kirk turned a Stamp ball from the right passed the right post.
Lee Bullen was sent on for the tiring Noel Hunt with Andy Tod sent into attack. Lee took a free kick on the left after McKenna had fouled Byrne but Gordon was out to hold the cross. The sub was in the thick of it in 75th minute heading a Nicholson corner over the top and two minutes later after Tod had been sandwiched by Pressley and Kisnorbo Bully challenged for Thomson’s free kick at the far post but neither he nor Andy Tod could finish
Bullen sent Skerla through the centre in 78th minute and the big Lithuanian tried his luck from 30 yards but the keeper held with ease. Next Byrne earned himself a yellow card for his tackle on McKenna and Stamp took a long run to shoot well wide left of Stillie’s goal. The keeper was called to make a save six minutes from time when Graham Weir’s ball to McKenna was sent left for Neilson to drive in a tame shot from distance.
The Pars pushed for a goal with some urgency as one sensed that one point was maybe not a happy ending. Maybury’s tackle on Thomson won the Pars a free kick on the left level with the edge of the Hearts penalty box. Darren Young’s cross was well defended but another free kick resulted from a tackle on Billy Mehmet. This time Nicholson sent the ball over the heads of everyone. In the 88th minute Mehmet won the Pars 6th corner of the game and Dempsey sent over a ball that almost got the goal.
Scott Wilson sent the ball over the Hearts defence and Thomson bursting through failed to get the touch required to divert the ball into the net. Luck was certainly absent and that continued in the 92nd minute when a Nicholson free kick dropped over Wilson to Tod just ten yards out but his hurried shot went wide.
The goalless draw was a satisfactory outcome for Craig Levein and his players. The 3215 Hearts fans went home the happier. Strange things happen in football but right now a nine point gap looks too much to claw back for the Pars to oust their Edinburgh neighbours.
Without Crawford and Brewster the Pars tried extremely hard and Byrne and Hunt in particular looked hungry for success. They will be hoping to hold their places but at least in this match the aerial challenge in the penalty box provided by Craig Brewster was sadly missing.
Shots On Target
Shots Off Target
Managers Post Match Comments
Richie Byrne Post Match Comments
Greg Shields Post Match Comments